Significance of Japan’s Agricultural Reform and Food Aid from the United States The agricultural and food supply situation in Japan continues to show strong influences from the years immediately following World War II. It was during the years of occupation by the Allied Forces that the United States brought to Japan its agricultural expertise along with large amounts of food aid. The agricultural sector was shaken loose from its prewar feudalistic characteristics by a democratic “revolution.” In such a setting it was later possible to introduce and extend new technology that greatly increased productivity in agriculture. The seeds of a major change in Japanese eating habits were also planted at this time when shipments of American wheat and milk were sent to feed the Japanese, including school children, many of whom were near the point of starvation because of wartime destruction of the agricultural and fishery industries. Recently, it has become possible in Japan to replace in part the traditional diet of rice and fish by a Western meal. The long-term effects that these years have had on postwar U.S.-Japanese agricultural relations have been considerable.For two to three years after the end of the war, U.S. government officials “advised” the Japanese government on how it should democratize its agricultural sector. In this connection, the major components of the reform enforced by the Japanese government included
many new programs to achieve a comprehensive land reform, plus the establishment of a cooperative system, an agricultural extension service, and an agricultural research system. The land reform itself forced the major landowners (who owned 40 to 45 percent of the country’s farmland) to release 80 percent of their holdings to their former tenants. Although later modified,1 the basic features of these programs were never changed, functioning as the base of the postwar agricultural system.Before the war, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry had attempted to pass several land reform bills to protect the interests of tenant farmers but these efforts were always blocked by the Diet which was dominated by landowners and others with strong vested interests in the status quo.2 Ultimately, it took the support of the postwar occupation forces to carry out the ministry’s goal. At that time, the general headquarters of the allied powers had a group dispatched from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it was with their idealism and good will that the general headquarters, together with the reformist faction of Japan’s agriculture ministry and farm groups, studied Japanese agriculture and promoted democratization of rural areas. This at least is the way Japanese agricultural leaders have interpreted the total situation, even though they recognize that there were different views and opinions about Japan’s agricultural reform between the general headquarters and the Japanese agriculture ministry.The former tenant farmers who in most cases were allowed to own their land were then organized into agricultural cooperatives. By this means an element of stability and prosperity was introduced into the rural areas of Japan, which, in turn, set off a favorable chain of events that spread prosperity to the rest of the national economy and laid the foundation for the period of rapid economic growth that followed. The newly independent farmers aggressively began to adopt new agricultural technologies3 that greatly stabilized and increased the 1 For instance, under the revised Agricultural Land Law, an agricultural cooperative can possess farmland in some cases, while only operator-farmers could possess farmland under the original law. Consolidation and separation of agricultural research stations were instituted to meet new situations. 2 In 1927, the cabinet refused to send to the Diet a bill for farm tenants, which had been drafted by the minister of agriculture and forestry. In 1931, the same bill, with various modifications, was proposed by the cabinet to the Diet, but the Diet did not pass it. In 1938, the ministry succeeded only to the extent that the Diet passed the Bill of Agricultural Land Adjustment, which was insufficient to protect the interests of tenant farmers in their relations with landowners. 3 More fertilizer and chemicals and a new method of nursing seedlings were started using new varieties of rice. At a later stage, a complete system of mechanized paddy rice production with smaller machines was adopted by most rice-growing farmers.